After a shooting Tuesday night in the Parramore area in which resident Rodney Watts was killed, City Commissioner Regina Hill and other black leaders in the area have had enough.
They convened Wednesday afternoon at the Jackson Center on Carter Street to issue a call for a ceasefire to the violence going on in Parramore.
But they know it won’t be enough to just ask the youths in Parramore to put down their guns and stop fighting – not if those in power aren’t lending a hand to give them a way out of the violence through education and jobs.
That’s why Hill and Lisa Early, Director of Families, Parks and Recreation with the city, have resolved to work with the city and county and local law enforcement, along with religious leaders in the area, to come up with comprehensive solutions on lowering incarceration among youths 18 to 24.
That, they feel, will help reduce and stem the violence, with more of a focus on making jobs and education available as well. Hill and Early are just coming off a trip to Chicago for the National League of Cities conference at which they learned some strategies to help curb youth incarceration. They intend to work and implement them in Orlando, though they’re still in the planning stages now, Early said.
Hill orated in her usual powerful manner, said it was important to move forward in a coordinated manner and act to really make change. She said all most youths needed was a chance, a way out of the cycle of incarceration that spurred violence to begin with.
“We need to make sure youths have adequate access to college and educational programs,” she said. “To beat the digital divide. For every bad guy out there, there are more good youths, who need opportunities to reach success. But all of us need to help stop the violence.”
Bishop Kevin Cobaris wasted no time articulating the tiredness and the weariness of the community to violence – and he said the Black Lives Matter movement, despite its good intentions, wasn’t going to solve this problem without coming to some harsh realizations.
“We’ve said black lives matter,” he said. “But what’s the need if black lives don’t matter to black people? Law enforcement did not gun down this young black man. Another black man likely did. We don’t want to address that, we want to ignore it and blame everyone else.”
Due to a plight of economic challenges and hardships, Cobaris said many young people in the Parramore neighborhood and others like it get sucked into crime as an easy way out. It was the job of government bodies and community workers to help assail that problem, then. But it wouldn’t come through the symbolic marches of the Black Lives Matter movement, Cobaris said.
“We can’t call for a ceasefire without offering something to pick up,” he said. “We can pray, we can march, but nothing will happen until we do what we need to do to put the community on the right path.”
Hill, Cobaris and other speakers also stressed that those who had information should feel safe coming forward, and that no one should ever feel afraid in the community they call home.
For that, they’re encouraged to call CrimeLine at 1-800-423-TIPS or visit crimeline.org.